“And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly. And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation. And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” (Mark 12:35-44)
Our Master is sitting in the temple, in the house of God at Jerusalem, teaching the people and preaching the gospel. He told his disciples and his enemies in no uncertain terms of God’s certain, impending judgment upon the Jews, and displayed that it would be a matter of righteousness and justice (vv. 1-12). Perceiving that he was talking about them, the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees got so mad that they wanted to kill him on the spot; but they feared the people.
As the Lord Jesus continued to teach, these men put their heads together and decided that they would try to trick him into saying something erroneous. So they came to him, first the Pharisees and Herodians, then the Sadducees, then a Scribe, with leading questions, trick questions, questions which were designed for strife and division, not for edification (vv. 13-34). One of these men, the Scribe (vv. 28-34), was obviously moved and impressed by our Lord’s doctrine. By the time he came with his appointed question, he appeared to be genuinely concerned to hear and understand the things of God. The Son of God said to him, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.”
In this last section of the chapter our Savior draws from the scenes before him in the temple and teaches us about the message of Holy Scripture, the wickedness and utter repugnancy of hypocrisy and self-righteousness, and the simplicity, devotion and blessedness of true faith.
A Question about Scripture
“And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly” (vv. 35-37).
Here is a question very different from those that had been raised by the Savior’s religious critics in the previous verses. The questions of religionists gender strife. Here is a question that unites the souls of men. The questions of religious smart-alecs are always about trivial, insignificant matters. Here is a question of vital importance.
The question which our Lord here propounds is about the Christ of God and the meaning and message of Holy Scripture. What a blessed thing it would be if all discussions among those who wear the name of Christianity, if all religious and theological conversations, if all preaching and religious instruction were less about trifles and more about these weighty matters. These are the things that concern our souls, the glory of God and the salvation he bestows. Let’s look at this question and learn the Master’s doctrine.
The message of the Old Testament Scriptures as well as the New is the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The passage here quoted by our Savior is Psalm 110:1. This is a messianic psalm. It was and still is regarded as such by almost all who expound the Word of God. It is a psalm full of instruction about the Christ of God, the Messiah. Look at the first four verses of that psalm.
“The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (v. 1). — That is a promise and prophecy of Christ’s exaltation, which is the result of the sure and certain victory he would accomplish at Calvary (Hebrews 1:1-3; 10:10-14).
“The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies” (v. 2). — Here the Psalmist declares that the risen Christ must and shall have all power over all flesh, that he might give eternal life to all his covenant people (John 17:2).
“Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth” (v. 3). — With those words, David asserts the glorious efficacy of God’s saving grace in Christ and the strict justice and holiness of his operations of grace.
“The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (v. 4). — Blessed be His name, our great and glorious Redeemer is a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. He is the only Priest there is and the only Priest we need!
Our Lord’s obvious intention here was to show us that the one subject about which David and all the writers of Old Testament Scriptures were inspired to write was Christ. He is the singular message of God’s Book (John 5:39; Luke 24:27, 44-47; Acts 10:43). We should always remember this when we read and study the Word of God, especially the Old Testament. All the types, prophecies, promises and laws of the Old Testament were intended to teach us about Christ.
We must never undervalue the Old Testament. I hear people talk about the “Old Bible” and the “New.” That is wrong. We do not have two words from God, but one. We do not have two revelations from the Lord, just one. The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. Let us treasure, study, believe and seek to understand all the Word of God.
The key to understanding the Word of God is Christ. Jesus Christ is the Foundation, the Center, and the Mainspring of all Divine Truth. This is what the Master himself said: — “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” If we would avoid error in interpreting and applying the scriptures, we must understand that everything in the Bible speaks of and relates to Christ. Divorce any doctrine from Christ and that doctrine becomes heresy. Divorce any precept from Christ and that precept becomes self-righteous legality.
Look at verses 35 and 36 again. Here are five profound facts, stated with the utmost simplicity.
1. That which is written in the Book of God is written by divine inspiration. — “David himself said by the Holy Ghost” (v. 36).
2. God’s promised Messiah, the King, our Redeemer and Savior is and must be the Son of David. He is not “a” son of David, but “the” Son of David, the Son promised when God said his Son would sit upon his throne forever, the Son of whom Solomon was only a type. All the Scribes, Pharisee, and even the Sadducees understood this (v. 35).
3. This Messiah, the Son of David, though he is a man, is himself God Almighty, the sovereign Lord of the universe! - This Man who is David’s Son is also David’s Lord!
4. The Messiah, God in human flesh, having finished the work he was sent here to do, now sits upon David’s throne, the throne of grace, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, exercising total dominion over all flesh, to give eternal life to his chosen, redeemed people.
5. He must reign until all his enemies are made his footstool!
We read in verse 37, “And the common people heard him gladly!” They still do! How happy they must have been to hear the Word of God opened, read and explained in language they could understand by someone who knew what he was talking about. How refreshing it is to hear about the Person of whom the Book speaks, rather than hearing men fuss about things nobody understands!
A Warning about Self-Righteousness
Read verses 38-40, and learn this. Nothing in all the world is more obnoxious, odious, and repugnant to God than self-righteousness, hypocrisy and the outward show of religion.
“And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.”
If you read the four gospels carefully, you cannot avoid observing that this wickedness of self-righteousness, hypocrisy and the outward show of religion was and is manifest in men in every walk of religion: conservative and liberal, orthodox and heterodox, Bible thumpers and Bible mockers. It was the common sin of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, Herod and the Scribes, the Herodians and the Zealots. The same is true today.
The word “Beware” was a word seldom used by our Lord. When he did use it, he used it only to give warnings of utmost importance. Here are five passages in which the Son of God warns us to beware. In all five passages the warning is about religious people, specifically religious leaders.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues” (Matthew 10:16-17).
“Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6-12).
“In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1).
“And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).
In Mark 12:38-40 our Savior specifically warns us to beware of those people who teach, by word or by practice, to make an outward show of godliness, seeking the praise (approval) of men. The things he mentions are things designed to impress men. Over the years I have often heard people excuse doing these things in the name of being a testimony to others. But they are really designed to draw attention and applause to ourselves. They are here strictly forbidden by the Son of God.
In a word, we are not to be pretentious hypocrites, calling attention to ourselves, making an outward show of religion (Matthew 6:1-18). Our Savior warns us to beware of those religious leaders who practice such things and teach you to practice them, because they devour widows’ houses in the name of God. You can mark it down: everything they do is in some way or another motivated and governed by the love of honor and the love of money. Beware of the tendencies of your flesh to pretense, hypocrisy, self-righteousness and a carnal show of religion, because these things are natural to, approved of and promoted by all men. Beware of following such men, because if you do, you shall with them “receive greater condemnation”.
Let us ever pray for grace to avoid hypocrisy, pretense, and a religious show. May God give us grace to be honest, thorough and sincere before him and before men.
An Example of True Godliness
Read verses 41-44 together and learn something about true Christianity, true godliness. There are few events in the earthly life of Christ more commonly overlooked than this, and few of his teachings which are less discussed than the one before us in these verses. Our Lord saw “many that were rich cast in much”.
Without question, those who have more should give more. That is seldom the case; but it should be. Usually, the wealthiest people really give the least. And when they do give a little something somewhere, they have lots of strings attached and a bag of instructions!
As he observed those who put money into the box, our Master spotted “a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”
This poor woman’s gift in itself was small, insignificant, even contemptible in the eyes of men; but it was highly valued and esteemed by the Son of God! All that was given by the wealthy was given out of their abundance. It was just the overflow, the excess, what they had left over after buying all they wanted, throwing away all they wanted, and saving all they wanted. — They gave a portion, but only a portion of what they had. She gave all. — They gave out of their wealth. She gave out of her poverty. — They gave and had much remaining. She gave everything she had, all her daily sustenance. — They gave out of a sense of duty. She gave because she wanted to give. — They gave to be seen of men. She gave because she loved the Lord. — They gave to get glory to themselves. She gave to the glory of God. — They gave what they did not need. She gave what she very much needed. — They gave their spare change. She gave everything! John Gill wrote…
“She did cast in all that she had, even all her living; her whole substance, all that she had in the world; what was to have bought her food, for that day. She left herself nothing, but gave away all, and trusted to providence for immediate supply.”
I have heard men and women speak with a pretended modesty of giving their “two mites.” We have given our “two mites” when, like this blessed woman, we have given our all!
“What have we to cast into the Lord’s treasury? Indeed, and in truth, nothing but what we have first received. We have two mites; soul and body: and these are both the Lord’s. Oh! for grace to give both these; And Jesus looking on; Jesus disposing to the act, and Jesus accepting all to his glory…And like the poor widow, the Lord’s treasury will have my whole living; since all I have, and all I am, are the Lord’s, and of His own only do I give him.” (Robert Hawker)
May God graciously teach us to give to the cause of Christ, as he taught this woman, so rich in grace, to give. First, let us give ourselves to Christ. Then, let us give purposefully, in proportion as the Lord has prospered us, and give generously for the glory of God. Oh, may our Savior teach us to know, “It is more blessed to give than to receive!”
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